New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie spent $85,000 in public money to entertain in luxury boxes at sports venues between 2010 and early 2012, when state Republicans started to pay for the expenses and reimbursed the state for those already incurred.
The money came from an account, worth $95,000 a year, that Christie can use to pay for official entertainment or other expenses associated with his job. The details of spending from that account were obtained by The Associated Press via the state's open records law.
Much of Christie's spending from the account is used to pay for entertaining at the governor's mansion, known as Drumthwacket. Though Christie does not live there, the state's budget provides money for the property's maintenance, official receptions and "other expenses."
The documents obtained by the AP do not list at which events, including those at the sports venues, the governor was entertaining and who was present.
The expenses are allowed by state law and do not include the cost of using luxury boxes at MetLife Stadium, Prudential Arena and the Izod Center, which are provided to the state for use by the governor. The sports facilities are all in northern New Jersey.
A spokesman said a reporter seeking that information should make another open records request; the administration has denied that kind of request in the past, saying no records exist.
"The official nature and business purpose of the event remains the case regardless of whether the event is at the State House, Drumthwacket, or at a sporting venue," Christie spokesman Kevin Roberts said in a statement Thursday.
The Christie administration decided in 2012 to stop using the account to pay for food and other expenses at the arenas. The change was made less than a year after Christie came under fire for using a state helicopter to attend one of his son's baseball games.
"The governor made the decision that costs associated with hosting at the sporting venues were better paid with non-state funds," Roberts said.
In 2012, the New Jersey Republican State Committee repaid the state for the expenses accrued in 2010 and 2011, minus $3,367.22 which it reimbursed the Department of the Treasury this week after the governor's office discovered the discrepancy while reviewing the documents requested by AP.
Two Democratic lawmakers introduced a bill Thursday that would require the governor to file a written report with the State Ethics Commission about use of the funds each year. Assemblymen Troy Singleton and Vince Mazzeo say under current law the $95,000 allowance is not subject to any reporting requirements.
The governor would also be required to submit copies of receipts, including the name and address of the person, business or organization receiving payment, and a brief description of the item or service.
Colvin reported from Manchester, New Hampshire and Horwitz reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Geoff Mulvihill contributed from Haddonfield, New Jersey.